Ravens' Reed, Suggs are back

Return of injured defenders makes Ravens 'a hard team to beat,' LB says

January 11, 2010|By Brent Jones | brent.jones@baltsun.com

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — — In the first quarter Sunday, linebacker-defensive end Terrell Suggs sacked and stripped New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady of the ball, and safety Ed Reed intercepted a tipped pass. Those turnovers led to 10 points and a commanding lead.

They also were a warning to the remaining seven playoff teams, Suggs said, that the two play-making Ravens are at it again.

"With me and Ed Reed doing our thing in the postseason, we become a hard team to beat," Suggs said after the Ravens' 33-14 win over New England. "It's a scary thing."

The turnovers were similar to the way the Ravens opened the playoffs last year, with Reed intercepting Miami Dolphins quarterback Chad Pennington twice and Suggs recovering a fumble.

On Sunday, Reed and Suggs played together for the second straight week, both having overcome injuries that had kept them from being on the field at the same time since a Nov. 16 shutout victory at Cleveland.

A week ago at Oakland, Reed acknowledged being rusty after having missed the previous four games with hip and ankle injuries. Suggs was sidelined midway through the season with a knee injury.

But both were relatively healthy against New England, elevating a defense that still managed to finish third in the league without the Pro Bowl players for a stretch to a squad capable of taking over a game.

"You have two of the best players in the NFL," defensive tackle Trevor Pryce said of Suggs and Reed. "There are a lot of great players in this locker room and in this league, but when all of your players are flying on all cylinders, you have a distinct advantage."

The Ravens appeared to have one throughout the game, frustrating Brady, the league's Comeback Player of the Year, and rendering 1,200-yard receiver Randy Moss ineffective. Brady finished with 154 passing yards on 42 attempts, was sacked three times and was responsible for four turnovers. Moss had five catches for 48 yards, all in the second half and with the Ravens up by three scores.

At times, Reed shaded to Moss' side of the field, but his range didn't seem hindered. On his interception, Reed glided downfield on a deep pass to Sam Aiken, picking off Brady as the ball bounced into the air on a hit by Domonique Foxworth.

Reed returned the ball 25 yards before pitching (this time safely) to Dawan Landry, who added 25 more return yards. The Ravens kicked a field goal to go up 24-0 near the end of the first quarter.

The play was reminiscent of the interception return for a touchdown Reed made in the opening round of last year's playoffs, a game-changer that propelled his team to back-to-back dominating defensive performances on the road and an AFC title game appearance.

Asked whether he ever doubted he would be able to play in this postseason, Reed said: "I wasn't sure, honestly. I was just trying to do everything with the trainers and doctors to be back for this moment. I'm still not 100 percent, but I feel good."

While Reed's play put the Patriots into what amounted to an insurmountable hole, Suggs seized the early momentum by beating Patriots left tackle Matt Light on a speed rush off the edge, swiping at the ball with one hand and then falling on Brady.

Suggs recovered the ball, and the Ravens scored five plays later for a 14-0 lead less than five minutes into the game.

"We expect every game to go four quarters, but with all the adversity we have been through, we expect to win these games," Reed said.

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